A good excuse to escape to Tartu

  • 2007-10-17
  • By Joel Alas

FACTORY OF FUNKINESS: Zavood, whose name in Russian means 'factory,' has long been one Tartu's favorite underground bars. It's also a place some locals are scared to visit.

TALLINN - These days it seems more is going on in Tartu than Tallinn. The creative impetus that made Tallinn such a vibrant party town has migrated south to the student town, where dozens of funky bars keep the spirit alive.
Tartu will host its annual Autumn Days festival from Oct. 15 to 21. The festival itself is nothing special 's it's a program of concerts, workshops, films and activities, the usual sort of overly organized and sanitized events you can expect at a council-run event. But it is a good excuse to get out of town and visit Tartu 's if you ever needed one in the first place.
Here's your Baltic Times guide to the thriving bohemian scene of Tartu.

Genialistid Club
You'll find Genialistid Club in an old theater on Lutsu street in the Old Town. It doesn't look like much from the outside 's or from the inside, for that matter. But it's what goes on inside the old wooden hall that makes Genialistid Club one of underground Tartu's best venues. It was founded by the members of the now-defunct band Genialistid as a venue and social space. It has a lively program of live music, poetry, films and parties.
Big cushions are scattered around the corners of the hall, inviting chilled introspection. Cheap beers and wine are sold at a simple bar. This isn't really a place for crazy partying, but for musical observation and appreciation.

Club Maailm
Students come to Club Maailm (The World) to eat, drink and sometimes dance. Even on a Tuesday night this cafe can summon up a party.  Its funky interior design is full of little surprises 's the bulbous lamps, the bench seats swinging from ropes, the twin-toilet restrooms for those who like company. If you get bored, you can always kill some time by trying to pick the names of the famous stencilized faces featured on the cafe's postcards.

It means "factory" in Russian, but there's nothing but drinking going on here. Zavood is the heart and soul of the underground Tartu scene. It's a lively dive bar that stays open late, serves cheap drinks and plays cool music. No matter what day of the week it is, you'll find a full house at Zavood after midnight. People say it's Tartu's answer to Tallinn's grimy Levist Valjas, but that comparison does little justice to either venue. Some Tartu locals are scared to visit 's and the regulars like it that way.

Who Doesn't Like Johnny Depp?
Aside from it's interesting name, Johnny Depp bar (as it shall henceforth be called) has arguably the most happening schedule of parties and concerts in all of Tartu 's and it has only been open a few months. Many regular Tallinn parties such as Mutant Disco (happening here Oct. 18) and Bashment have migrated to this bar, and there have even been a few international bands that skipped Tallinn altogether in order to perform here (such as the Australian band Curse ov Dialect a few weeks ago).
Unfortunately I can't give an adequate review of the bar 's every time I try to go there my night gets sidetracked. I'll get there eventually...
If these aren't enough to keep you entertained, head to the nightclub Atlantis, where the traveling Kino Bus is temporarily located. They will be screening highlights from the Sleepwalkers and Animated Dreams film festivals through the weekend.
And don't leave it too long to visit Tartu. Worrying demographics show that the student population will fall dramatically in the coming years. Enjoy it now while it's still buzzing with life.

Tartu Autumn Days
Oct 15 's 21